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Desert of Desolation - your experiences?

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
Let's see - this is about the first of these threads I've been able to participate in! I remember finding the party illusionist in a box in a warehouse; I remember the party's elven magic-user/thief sleeping 50 feet off to the side of the party every night - invisible. He was the origin of our gaming group's catch-all phrase for annoying NPCS: Flying, invisible magic-user with a -5 armor class. Eventually, he put on a hat of contrariness, and we found him to be much easier to control after that. When we got to the mini-plane with the thieving tribe who worshipped their "stealies" it was like he had died, gone to heaven and found out he was god.

Until they robbed him and left him for dead.

This was also the module of the 24-hour game session, with a wish being the prize for making it through till morning. I got a vorpal blade for my fighter - who had an 8 Dexterity, and kept falling into things. I could never get close enough to the invisible-flying-magic-user-with-the -5 AC to lop off his head.

Ah, good times.
 
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Benben

First Post
Quasqueton said:
Did you Play or DM this adventure (or both, as some did)? What were your experiences? Did you complete it? What were the highlights for your group?
Quasqueton

Started playing it when I was in 5th grade I think but the campaign never finnished. Now some 16 years later I got a group together and ran them through a conversion of it.

Overall I loved the concepts and settings in the game. The ending though was a tremendous anticlimax.

If I could do it over again I would have given the Efree a number of servants that need to be dispatched while Martek is reforming.
 


Whatever the Critcisms, i ran the Desert of Desolation module (which is a compilation of the 3 with tie ins) and it is the one module that my players still talk about and i ran this about 9 years ago. Whatever the flaws, the module is very evocative, and was a load of fun for my players.
 


Steel_Wind

Adventurer
As it so happens, I3- Pharoah was translated faithfully into one of the best NWN multiplayer modules by Curt Miller.

I was chatting with Curt a few weeks ago and he is nearing release on the sequel Oasis of the White Palm, with a ton of custom tiles and other content to capture the feeling of the desert and tomb settings. Like its predecessor in the Desert of Desolation Series, it's a faithful translation of the original.

For those who would like to give the NWN version a whirl, it's available here:

http://nwvault.ign.com/View.php?view=modules.Detail&id=4021
 

gizmo33

First Post
Quasqueton said:
I've only read about half of the first module so far, but oh my god, it is horrible. So much about this module is horrible. Just some examples I can remember without it in my hands right now:

I don't think any of your complaints so far rank as "major" issues, though I suspect that difference is the core reason why some folks (like me) consider the modules great while others (you) do not.

Quasqueton said:
Monsters in the random monster charts don't have hit points listed. Just HD.

Back in the old days DMs knew how to multiply by 5. Now the MM does that for you.

Quasqueton said:
There is a group of about a dozen bandits with 2 HD. Half have only 2-4 hit points.

25 or so years of DMing and no player has ever asked me why someone has 10 hit points instead of 4. Who cares about stuff like this? The bandits with 2 HD are tough. Maybe next time someone in your campaign meets a 5th level fighter NPC they should demand to see an XP sheet enumerating each of the XP gains.

Quasqueton said:
There is a maze with only one way in -- jumping into a burning brazier in the temple. The worshippers at the temple haven't figured out the brazier is a teleporter. But there are a couple dozen folks (non-worshippers) in the maze who had to come through the brazier.

My memory is a little hazy, but there were sections of the dungeon that bordered on other dimensions. I don't recall it explicitly stating that there was only one way in - though perhaps the module only described one way. One of the issues is that in practice (IME anyway), PCs assume that there is a logic behind it, and they're a little too busy trying to stay alive to want to undertake a study of the ecology of the place. Even if the module says one way in, it's not that big of a deal to add others - do you really think the module would have been great if half of it were taken up with useless backstories of NPCs that got killed in the first round by a fireball?

Quasqueton said:
There are areas in the maze where treasure is just sitting in the middle of the floor, apparently just abandoned and not found by anyone else.

When I run modules in my campaign, I take notes on PCs actions so that those that revisit the dungeon find it altered by the events. It is NOT uncommon for PCs to discard items, even a magic item that no one had time to examine.

Quasqueton said:
In one area, a +1 warhammer just is lying in the middle of the floor. No monster, no trap, nothing but the warhammer on the floor.

:confused: Ok, so one thing that makes less sense than a discared warhammer in the middle of the floor is a TRAPPED discarded warhammer in the middle of the floor.

Quasqueton said:
In many areas, there is ancient writing with hints and clues for the PCs. But for most all of them, there is a 30% to decipher the writing. Just a flat 30% chance, regardless of being a wizard with 18 Int or a dumb fighter. And it doesn't even say this is 30% for the whole party as a group, or for each individual trying to read it.

Welcome to 1st edition DnD. There were no skills. It would take a whole seperate thread to describe the various ways of DMing non-combat situations - but suffice to say IMO that there were few guidelines. Any system that you propose (intelligence-based for instance) would be just as flawed in certain cases (what if my dumb fighter were from the desert?) "30%" chance takes up a whole lot less space than a 3E-ish "sidebar" explaining the rules. The modules in the old days were lean and mean.

Quasqueton said:
This first module at least, is absurd. All those of you who say this is a great module, are you smoking crack? Or just looking back through rose-colored glasses. I mean, this thing is outrageously bad. And I'm only half-way through the first module.

The oldest of 1e modules were just pure out-and-out slug-fests (or trap-fests, like Tomb of Horrors). The I-series was one of the first to add a story and interesting non-combat elements to the mix. You still have to do some work to get it to mesh with your campaign world - but I find the tantalizing bits that the I-series does provide to be much more interesting than the pages and pages of fluff that I'd have to discard anyway. Maybe it's a little light on details for today's thespians, but back in the day all the extra flavor text that you seem to be asking for would have been wasted space.
 

Quasqueton

First Post
I was letting this whole thing go, but gizmo33 defends the module by insulting me. Interesting method. Basically: This module doesn't suck because *your* stupid. Very enlightening.

Back in the old days DMs knew how to multiply by 5.
But apparently the designers couldn't.

So what everyone here is saying in defense of the module, is a good DM made up stuff to cover the irrationality of the encounters and/or good Players ignored the irrationality of the stuff they encountered and found.

There's a freakin' gnome digging tunnels with a *spoon* [literally!] deep in the heart of a 1,000-year-old tomb (with not so much as a single sentence on how or why). And this is not only completely acceptable, but considered "good design"?

Quasqueton
 

Arnwyn

First Post
Quasqueton said:
There's a freakin' gnome digging tunnels with a *spoon* [literally!] deep in the heart of a 1,000-year-old tomb (with not so much as a single sentence on how or why). And this is not only completely acceptable, but considered "good design"?
Nope - one of the dumbest things in that module.

However, I have yet to see to this very day a 120-page adventure that didn't have at least a couple of completely retarded (or at best, badly designed) elements.
 

gizmo33

First Post
Quasqueton said:
I was letting this whole thing go, but gizmo33 defends the module by insulting me. Interesting method. Basically: This module doesn't suck because *your* stupid. Very enlightening.

I didn't insult you, but you do feel insulted so I'll recognize that and apologize for that feeling. I took for granted that you could multiply by 5, and so I was being flip, and I should have said it more directly: it's not a big deal to have HD and not have hp in a game system where monsters don't have CON. I don't think you're stupid and it didn't occur to me that you'd take this that way.
 

gizmo33

First Post
Quasqueton said:
So what everyone here is saying in defense of the module, is a good DM made up stuff to cover the irrationality of the encounters and/or good Players ignored the irrationality of the stuff they encountered and found.

IMO there's nothing irrational if a module has a tavern with 20 patrons in it and doesn't tell you the names and the backgrounds of each patron, or why they're there. It's a tavern, so it has patrons.

By the same token - it's a dungeon - so it has monsters. I don't know much about sphinxes (I consider the "ecology" articles about magical creatures like sphinxes to be as "irrational" as anything else). It's a thousand year old tomb with a curse on it and the presence of a gnome with a spoon is causing problems? It's a gnome!!! Now of course in 3E gnomes are just short humans with different colored mohawks, but in the "old school" way of thinking fantastic elements do not require scientific explanations. It's almost trivial to think of a reason why the gnome is there - maybe not a reason worthy of it's own adventure but how many adventures can you fit in 32 pages?

And why would players demand such explanations? It really seems just as "irrational" to me that someone would expect the ecology of a fantasy universe to contain ONLY those same patterns as exist in the real world. IMC sphinxes hang out wherever they feel like it, ask riddles and grant requests according to whatever rules they feel like following at the time. Maybe they get their guidance from spirits/gods (who know that the 1000 year old tomb will play an important role in the transformation of the cursed land) or maybe they just like being there. A sphinx reading a module about why a bunch of farmers are sitting in a building called a "tavern" and drinking liquids out of cups would be just as confused.
 

Quasqueton

First Post
However, I have yet to see to this very day a 120-page adventure that didn't have at least a couple of completely retarded (or at best, badly designed) elements.
But this adventure I've been reading and "reviewing" is only 32 pages.

See, gizmo33, you are just stretching my comments to ridiculous extremes in an effort to discredit them. That's called a strawman argument.

And you are adding in little backhand comments about D&D3 (like insulting the current edition of the game is somehow going to buttress up the defense of a module from an earlier edition). Why do you keep bringing the current game and its players into this discussion on an old adventure of an old edition?

IMO there's nothing irrational if a module has a tavern with 20 patrons in it and doesn't tell you the names and the backgrounds of each patron, or why they're there. It's a tavern, so it has patrons.
You are absolutely right. That's why I have not complained about anything even remotely this mundane. Now if that tavern had a red dragon in a booth, a ghoul tending bar, a random bag of gold sitting unattended on a table, no way in or out, and absolutely no mention at all of how this loony situation came to be, then I'd complain. And I'd still be flabbergasted about it when someone shouted out, "Hey, it's a fantasy adventure!"

Quasqueton
 

Arnwyn

First Post
Quasqueton said:
But this adventure I've been reading and "reviewing" is only 32 pages.
*shrug* Sure, but in the context of this thread (certainly, the original post), it is about the 128-page compilation... so all those who liked it (and are on crack) are talking about either that (or all 3 originals together).

But, whatever. My point still stands - no adventure is free from stupidity (none), it just depends where each individual person draws their line.
 

Mark Hope

Adventurer
Quasqueton said:
There's a freakin' gnome digging tunnels with a *spoon* [literally!] deep in the heart of a 1,000-year-old tomb (with not so much as a single sentence on how or why). And this is not only completely acceptable, but considered "good design"?
You leave Prit alone, you nitpicking spoon-hater!!!





:p
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Quasqueton said:
...There's a freakin' gnome digging tunnels with a *spoon* [literally!] deep in the heart of a 1,000-year-old tomb (with not so much as a single sentence on how or why). And this is not only completely acceptable, but considered "good design"?

Quasqueton
Leave Spoony out of this. My players still mention him after 10 years. They befriend him left him in safe placed and then fireballed him by mistake.
Also the modules back then assume you own the core books and would cross ref monsters. Instead of today where you can buy the module and phb and not need anything else.
 

Geron Raveneye

Explorer
Quasqueton said:
Now if that tavern had a red dragon in a booth, a ghoul tending bar, a random bag of gold sitting unattended on a table, no way in or out, and absolutely no mention at all of how this loony situation came to be, then I'd complain. And I'd still be flabbergasted about it when someone shouted out, "Hey, it's a fantasy adventure!"

Quasqueton

There's a story behind that, for sure...just because it's not explained doesn't mean it's not there? How about sitting down and creating it yourself? I thought that was part of the charm of being DM...creating your own stories. A lot of the adventures "back then" were half story, half framework for the DM's stories. Things like warhammers lying around could either be ignored...or turned into a small story itself. Those adventures either were played as straight hack-fests, sometimes with a little background as garnish...or plundered for all those small "inconsistencies" for new story hooks. Always depended on the DM.

Just because adventure design 20 years ago differed in assumptions to today's "standard" doesn't mean the adventure is...how do you say? Horrible? Outrageously bad? Absurd? I don't know, but "back in the days", making up a story about a gnome digging a tunnel with a spoon in a 1000 years old tomb was part of the fun...or making him part of the ongoing one. And if you're that stumped by a warhammer simply lying around in a maze, and don't see a story opportunity in it...well, I'm not sure you should try to pass judgement on those adventures then. *shrug*
 
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gizmo33

First Post
Quasqueton said:
See, gizmo33, you are just stretching my comments to ridiculous extremes in an effort to discredit them. That's called a strawman argument.

I don't know what you're saying here. The quote that you used is not from something that I wrote. I'm not trying to "discredit" what you're saying, it's just my opinion that you're not considering this issue from all sides and I'm trying to clarify some of the other sides.

Quasqueton said:
And you are adding in little backhand comments about D&D3 (like insulting the current edition of the game is somehow going to buttress up the defense of a module from an earlier edition). Why do you keep bringing the current game and its players into this discussion on an old adventure of an old edition?

First of all, I play 3E and I like it a lot and I'm not "insulting the current edition of the game" by making a joke about mohawks. Secondly - there is a cultural difference between the 1E and 3E games and I detect what I strongly think is a bias in favor of some of the unwritten (or sometimes written) logic of the 3E game that is not appropriate for 1E.

Look - you asked what it was about these modules that made them good to those of us that thought so - so I thought that it was important for you to see these things from the perspective of those that played them. Your recent post that got this all started said something like "I3-5 sucks, so tell me why you guys still like it even though it sucks". It really begged the question (if you want to get into issues like strawman arguments - look at the wording of your original question). So I'll say this: given that people that don't like I3-5 have no taste in modules, why is it that people don't like I3-5? - see that's a dead-end.

Quasqueton said:
You are absolutely right. That's why I have not complained about anything even remotely this mundane. Now if that tavern had a red dragon in a booth, a ghoul tending bar, a random bag of gold sitting unattended on a table, no way in or out, and absolutely no mention at all of how this loony situation came to be, then I'd complain. And I'd still be flabbergasted about it when someone shouted out, "Hey, it's a fantasy adventure!"

But it is this mundane because you're making an assumption that the presence of a red dragon and ghoul require and explanation while the presence of 20 tavern patrons do not. Granted, a tavern is a strange place for a red dragon, but a dungeon is not. Granted too - it probably would help to have a general idea of what monsters are doing where. But a dungeon can be seen as a dynamic place, an enchanted place (and I don't mean the kind of enchanment that's simply defined in the PHB - some people have a hard time imagining magic operating in a campaign world that can't be codified in a nice spell-block write-up in the core rules), and monsters are weird.

The point is not that you were complaining about something mundane. You were complaining about elements that are easily explained - especially if you're not trying to fit everything into a real-world model:
1. gnome with spoon: thief that tried to steal from Pharaoh's treasure horde and was geased
2. sphinx: a sphinx's psychology makes it a simple thing for it to sit in a room for decades while it amuses itself in creating imaginary worlds in it's mind. It's inclination is to ask riddles which is a natural part of it's psychology (as is saying "hello" for humans). It was sent here long ago by Martek who realized that it's chaotic services would be necessary, but it forgot most of it's mission, of which it preserves only a distorted view.
3. bag of gold: dropped by some adventurers so that they could carry the bodies of their comrades after they were ambushed by doppelgangers. Or maybe the sack is all that remains of a pile of mundane items that have otherwise rotted away.

Sure, you can drill away at these explanations until the module writers are forced to write a page for every mundane element of the dungeon. How did the gold get there? Whose face are on all 254 coins? Why is it all the same face? Are any of the coins bent or shaved?

At some point when you're playing the game you do have to suspend your disbelief - I really don't see how this is basically different from later modules. I question the motives of any player who is obsessively drilling away at an NPCs explanation when it clearly has no bearing on their mission (breaking the curse) - it would seem to me to be more about hassling the DM than playing the game.
 


Melan

Explorer
gizmo33 said:
1. gnome with spoon: thief that tried to steal from Pharaoh's treasure horde and was geased
2. sphinx: a sphinx's psychology makes it a simple thing for it to sit in a room for decades while it amuses itself in creating imaginary worlds in it's mind. It's inclination is to ask riddles which is a natural part of it's psychology (as is saying "hello" for humans). It was sent here long ago by Martek who realized that it's chaotic services would be necessary, but it forgot most of it's mission, of which it preserves only a distorted view.
3. bag of gold: dropped by some adventurers so that they could carry the bodies of their comrades after they were ambushed by doppelgangers. Or maybe the sack is all that remains of a pile of mundane items that have otherwise rotted away.
See? Proper DMing in action! :cool:
 

styopa

Explorer
The series is atmospheric, interesting, has some fantastic npcs that can be durable characters in the dm's world, but:
  • man, I completely hated the 4th-wall breaking tone shifts when they apparently got bored in writing and decided stupid jokes would be "fun"
  • the ending is IMO a complete deus-ex-machina letdown. Very much a negative final note to a grand series of adventures.
 

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